Thanks to a new deal highlighted in the New York Times, the U.S. State Department has committed to a partnership with massive open online course (MOOC) provider Coursera to open in-person “learning hubs,” where students can access free MOOCs and meet with discussion groups.
This is an interesting change in course for MOOCs, the entire premise of which is built on offering classes online with no in-person component. (If you’re unfamiliar with MOOCs, check out some of our previous content: Online Ed Provider Coursera Does the Math, WSJ on MOOCs: Expert Opinions.)
Despite the lofty goal of offering free courses online to anyone who wants to join, a recent international pilot program run by Coursera showed that students struggled to complete it. The data showed that only 10 percent of online students who begin a MOOC complete it, according to the New York Times, versus a 40 percent completion rate among students who had an in-person, discussion-based meeting at least semi-regularly.
That research is what caused the U.S. State Department, which has said its interest in the program lies in helping to reach students anywhere and exposing international students to an American education, to change course.
“Over the summer, when we looked at the success stories, we identified facilitated discussions as something that seemed to work,” Meghann Curtis, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for academic programs, told the New York Times.
The new U.S. program will feature “learning hubs,” with free Internet access and weekly in-person meetings with local teachers or facilitators. Coursera, a California-based company, already has partnered with 100 universities to offer their courses online.
The company is taking an active role in partnering with the U.S. State Department to collect data on the facilitated sessions, the New York Times said.
Do you think having an in-person element will help keep online students on-track to complete their courses? Do you think having an in-person requirement defeats the purpose of a MOOC? Do you think the government should drive these programs? Share your thoughts in the comments.